Saturday, May 16, 2009

On Signing In

Fresh on the heels of our Mother’s Day activities earlier this week, we celebrated an important milestone in the life of my young daughter – the day of kindergarten registration. Early in the school year, I had determined that I would save a “sick” day if at all possible and make this entire day about her. It is not often that we are afforded a whole day of uninterrupted time with one another, as the mundane but necessary tasks of life and single-parenting tend to encroach on our time whether they are invited or not.

But this was a day devoted to my one and quite possibly only child, and I intended to make the most of it.

There have only been a few occasions in my five plus years as a father when I have awoken before my daughter without the assistance of an alarm clock. Most Christmas mornings fall into this category. And usually the morning of her birthday. And sometimes a random day here or there.

I didn’t expect it to happen on this day.

I woke up at 8:00 without an alarm. My living-breathing alarm usually wakes me before 7:00 on days off. Then I laid there, completely unsure of what to do with the fact that she was still asleep and it was 8:00. I reveled in a few minutes of morning solitude, which I am usually accustomed to getting only after the sun has set and my daughter is tucked into bed, so it was a nice change. After about fifteen minutes, when I had convinced myself I should go get her up or at least check on her, I heard her door open and she bounded into my room in her usual chipper manner.

Forty minutes later we were in the van headed to what was supposed to be our first stop (breakfast at her favorite doughnut shop) when she asked if we could stop by the school and “sign-in” first. Once I was convinced that her hunger for a chocolate doughnut could stand the delay, we pulled into the school parking lot and headed, for her first time on two feet, through the front doors.

She had actually been to the school a few times before, when she was much too young to remember, and I was still gainfully employed there. For the first two years we lived in our new Southeastern home-state, I was part of a family that my daughter will soon get to join. It was my first real job out of college and it was truly a family to me in many ways, from the first day I set foot on the job to the day I handed in my keys. (I left on good terms to pursue my current higher-paying contract job in an adjacent county.)

Truth be told, I was more nervous about the absence of that family atmosphere than I was about registering my daughter for school when I walked through those doors. But it was all for naught. We were greeted with a cheerful “hey girl” (for my daughter, of course) from the secretary with whom we have remained friends through church and beach outings. After telling us we were the first ones to register, she directed us to a room down the hall (which had been a first-grade classroom when I worked there), where we were greeted with another “hey” and the first of many hugs of the day from “long-time, no-see” friends. We spoke with two teachers - one male, one female - neither of whom were employed there when I was, but both of whom seemed very happy to see us, nonetheless. The female teacher handed me a stack of forms to whittle down, while the male teacher gave my daughter an educational screening, all of which took place at a small round table with chairs intended to be used by people under four feet tall.

As I buried my head in the forms, I tried to do so in such a way that my beaming smile was not completely obvious as I listened to both teachers comment on how smart my daughter was and how impressed they were by her. I believe that every parent should think his child is the smartest, prettiest, bravest, fill in the blank-est. And I do. But my daughter is starting school with above-average academic skills, thanks in large-part to the wonderful teachers she’s had in daycare/preschool (from her first day as a five month old till now), and in small-part to my (and her mommy’s when she was still here) reinforcement of these concepts and skills.

It was just really nice to hear someone else go on and on about how great my child is.

Our visit with the teachers culminated with the two of them “arguing” over which of them should get to teach my daughter next year. I would have thought they were putting me on, but they were ahead of us in the hallway and I’m not sure they realized we could hear them. Unfortunately for them, they are only two of five or six kindergarten teachers there, so odds are that neither of them will get her. But it was still nice to hear that they both wanted her in their class.

As we passed back through the double doors we had entered only thirty minutes before, we were greeted with a spattering of raindrops on our faces. So we made a mad dash for the van, since the sky had been cloudless when we arrived and thus the umbrellas were in said van.

We headed to the doughnut place, where we waited in line for ten minutes behind one family who was at the register when we walked in. Normally that sort of thing gives me line-rage, but today it just meant that those ten minutes with my daughter were spent in line instead of one of the various other locations we would inhabit briefly this day. We eventually ordered and consumed our breakfast - a chocolate glazed doughnut and hot chocolate for her and one double-chocolate, one blueberry doughnut each and coffee for me.

When we left the doughnut place the rain had not yet subsided, so we went back home to wait it out. We made phone calls to the grandparents to let them know “how things went” at the school. My daughter was very excited to be able to recount her adventures at “the big school” not once, but twice that morning. The rain was becoming intermittent, so we took a chance, changed clothes and jumped back in the van. After an errand run entirely to buy time…

We drove to the beach in the pouring rain.

And we sat at the beach in the pouring rain. At one point when the rain abated, we even got out of the van and ran out toward the water. We got back in just as quickly as it was still sprinkling and the wind was a bit more biting than I had anticipated.

After about thirty minutes, with our fast food drive-thru lunches long-since consumed, the rain stopped completely. Then the sun came out. Then the sun stayed out. I tentatively opened the door and it felt at least five degrees warmer than it had been on our brief jaunt to the water fifteen minutes prior. So we took a chance and went down toward the water again. Only this time we kept walking down the beach for the final event of our daddy-daughter day.

There is a pier about a mile down the beach from the main public access point, which I have always loved to walk to. I have, on occasion, walked to it alone. But more often I like to walk to it with one of my favorite ladies.

As a young child, I walked to it with my first favorite lady, who gave me life and a home filled with love.

As a young husband, I walked to it with my second favorite lady, who gave me joy and a home filled with love.

As a young father, I walk to it with my third favorite lady, who gives me hope.

And a home filled with love.


  1. Beautiful story!!!

    It is too bad that there are not more fathers like yourself!!! You and your daughter make a beautiful family. May God guide you on life's journey and your daughters start in school!!

  2. Bringing your daughter to school is almost a rite of passage in itself. I think it symbolises all the work you've done in bringing her this far.

    How wonderful that you could make the day memorable by sharing that special place on the beach with her.

    That's something which in loss is almost too easy to forget. Happy memories don't just lie in the past -- you can still create them to fill your life as you go forwards.

    Sometimes having a new life blossoming beside you makes that hard to bear, and very tiring at 6am. But tthat sense of achievement in time passing is precious, and that really is a gift.

  3. Rick- Thank you for your kind words. We are a family in every sense of the word, albeit a non-traditional one.

    Roads- The making of memories as we move on is precisely why I've chosen to categorize my posts as "looking back" and "moving forward". I'm pleased to say that as or right now, they are nearly even.

    Every day the last two-plus years has been another day without my wife, but it has also been another day with my daughter, and I try to always be mindful of the latter.